Some of us like the rain, though, especially when it arrives in the form of a lovely afternoon drizzle. We welcome its presence with open arms, smiling up at the sky as tiny droplets of cool water drip drip drip upon our warm cheeks. I, for one, welcomed The Perfect Host, and am genuinely baffled as to why critics didn't like this terrific little romp.
David Hyde Pierce plays Warwick, our perfect host - a man of somewhat wealthy status who's seemingly planning a dinner party for some friends when a stranger, John, stumbles into his abode. John, claiming to know Warwick, is actually an on-the-run fugitive who's just robbed a bank and needs a place to lay low. But that's not a problem for Warwick, because as fate would have it, the night's host is himself harboring a dark secret: he is a delusional, schizophrenic lunatic who's drugged John's wine way before he even learned of John's criminal background, proving that karma is, in fact, a bitch.
John wakes up tied to a chair at the dinner table, which has been set with a number of platters despite the absence of guests - except that, at least in the twisted mind of Warwick, the kitchen is full of friends all gathered to enjoy the lovely evening. John, of course, is Warwick's guest of honor, and he'll have to endure a night of torment at the hands of his deranged host.
|Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures|
The Perfect Host is as divine as Warwick's Los Angeles home and as twisted as his mind. While not strictly a horror film, it employs tons of thriller tropes with, naturally, a healthy helping of absurdist humor. You'll be strangely enamored with David Hyde Pierce's Warwick, who offers us charm, laughs, and terror all at once. The full three-course meal, if you will. He's like a more outgoing shade of Norman Bates; captivating and horrifying. John, meanwhile, is a character we initially despise but learn to cheer for, which can get a little difficult because the sadistic schadenfreude in all of us - that part of us that cheers on Jason Voorhees while pining for the individual beheadings of the obnoxious teenagers - really wants to root for Warwick. That's one of many things I like about The Perfect Host: the fact that both of the main characters are terrible but for totally different respective reasons, we can't really pick sides. We know it's probably not going to happen, but we'd like to see both of them triumph over the other. This cognitive dissonance aspect proves to be less frustrating than cognitive dissonance tends to be, because the movie is far too busy being endlessly entertaining for us to dwell on such trivialities. We're laughing at Warwick's ridiculous antics as he dances with people who aren't actually there and we're at the very least blowing air out of our nostrils at John's quick-witted passive aggressive responses to Warwick's weird behavior. Simultaneously, if you let it, the surreal milieu of the entire eerie evening enraptures you and never lets go.
But no movie is without its flaws. To an extent, I can understand why some critics might not have loved The Perfect Host. For one, the movie doesn't really seem to know its own genre and fumbles between horror, drama, thriller, absurdist comedy, crime, and then some. Granted one could easily view this as a positive facet, as multi-genre films aren't uncommon, but it's not difficult to see how that might not have clicked with some viewers. Added to that, the subplot involving John's girlfriend is admittedly hamfisted and could've been fleshed out a tad more, or at least organized a bit better. After all, I described the situation as a "subplot" when in fact it's technically the core plot of the whole thing. The fact that it played out like a subplot definitely hindered its importance. Finally, there are two "twists" toward the end of The Perfect Host, and one of them is... well, it's very confusing. I use this phrase a lot, but the Fridge Logic is strong with this one. Obviously revealing the twist would be a massive spoiler, so if you've seen the flick and you're unsure what I'm referring to, it's the slit throat. You know what I'm talking about. Maybe I missed something, but it seemed to raise a lot of unanswered questions.
Regardless of its imperfections, The Perfect Host did not deserve its poor critical response nor its lack of attention. The movie is flooded with originality, great performances, and one of the most satisfyingly grin-worthy endings I've ever seen. When a movie is as entertaining as this one is from start to finish, I fail to see how anybody couldn't at the very least enjoy it a smidgen. I wholeheartedly encourage you to find this hidden gem if you can, and hopefully you'll cherish it as much as I did.